CHICO — The coronavirus pandemic has halted a number of traditional events and activities, but there’s two givens that can be counted upon.
The Nov. 3 election and candidate forums from the League of Women Voters Butte County.
Celebrating the 100th year of women’s right to vote with the 19th Amendment, the local league is working through the logistics of getting unbiased information to voters.
“It may look different, and there may be bumps along the way, but that doesn’t mean we’re not having them,” said candidate forum organizer Claire Greene about the process.
They won’t be the same as the earlier sessions for the March 3 election, which included a candidates forum at Butte College, and a “speed dating” structure with candidates moving among tables of voters at Chico High School.
Greene said there likely will be a computer online or video taping/rebroadcast mode. There’s even talk about various medias possibly hosting sessions, and BCAC-TV has been talking about potential broadcasts.
“People think it’s easy to do it remotely, but when you start counting the number of league people to put something like that on, plus the candidates, it gets over the limit” of allowable gatherings.
There also are issues of broadband availability and quality throughout Butte County, she noted.
“The challenge is not only setting up remote events but doing so that it flows smoothly, with no tech issues.”
With possible issues on the technology side, there are also the potential challenges for the public, especially if there are new ways of connecting to forums, such as by Zoom.
“While people may be used to technology like Zoom professionally, we have others who may be unfamiliar,” Greene said.
“The challenge has always been in voter information, giving as many people access to as much information as possible. Forums did that well,” Greene said.
Research into what other leagues in California have been doing is part of the Butte County’ league’s activities.
“The goal is not to reinvent the wheel. If another league is doing something that works, we’re interested.”
What could be the most difficult aspect of forums is the interaction with the public. Forums presented league questions to the candidates, but they also included questions from the public.
“Maybe we can have questions sent in to us early, but additionally, some candidate answers spark further questions.”
Another issue is the speed at which the events must be organized. With mail-in ballots, voting can start in early October, so the candidate information must appear earlier.
Ballots will be available at the Butte County Clerk-Recorder’s office in Oroville starting the first week in October, and ballots will be mailed to voters starting around mid-October.
Greene said the league will publicize whatever form the candidates’ events take. Information will be posted on the league’s website https://my.lwv.org/california/butte-county and Facebook page www.facebook.com/lwvbuttecounty, along with notices in the local media.
The league welcomes ideas about conducting the forums, she said, and information can be shared by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone 895-8683.
In Chico, the Chamber of Commerce is planning a candidates forum in late September, but the format is still under consideration, according to CEO Katy Thoma.
In Oroville, the Oroville Exchange Club has tentative plans for a forum on Oct. 1 at the State Theatre, but is working out details about the form it could take, according to member Bob Hewitt.
In Paradise, the Paradise chamber plans to film candidates one-on-one and include them online on the website in early October. Chamber Executive Director Monica Nolan said the timing of the interviews release is still being firmed up. Questions for the candidates can be submitted to Nolan via email email@example.com.